It wasn’t long ago when we were told the automatic budget cuts—called sequestration—were going to cause real pain in the military. Officials blame these cuts as the reason that contactors are going to be forced to be furloughed.
But the way a Pentagon contractor is planning for these horrific reductions in spending is rather odd. They are trying to use up as much money as fast as possible. As the Washington Post reported:
“‘Our available funding balances remain large in all appropriations — too large to spend’ just on small supplemental funds often required by existing contracts, the June 27 e-mail said. DISA’s budget is $2 billion. ‘It is critical in our efforts to [spend] 100% of our available resources this fiscal year,” said the e-mail from budget officer Sannadean Sims and procurement officer Kathleen Miller. “It is also imperative that your organization meets its projected spending goal for June. . .’”
DISA is the Defense Information Systems Agency and their behavior is apparently quite common among government contractor. “The June 27 e-mail laid out an aggressive and detailed spending timetable to” make sure the departments spent at least eighty percent of their budget two months before the end of the fiscal year. In the “use it or lose it” world of government contracting, that kind of behavior gets rewarded. “A DISA spokesperson e-mailed to say that these e-mails are ‘common practice among government agencies’ and that many congressional ‘financial and procurement timelines . . .are designed to ensure that agencies’ meet that eighty percent goal.
But the attitude of “Spend the money! Spend it all! Spend it now!” is a recipe for wasting money, time, and resources. If someone is motivated to spend money fast because they fear their budget will be reduced next year, he is not likely to make the best financial decisions about how to use that money.
While we don’t have emails from other contractors or from the Pentagon itself, we can be sure this practice of spending money for the sake of spending money is widespread. After all, the news has finally broken about the high-tech, state-of-the-art, command center built in the Afghan province of Helmand.
“The U.S. military has erected a 64,000-square-foot headquarters building on the dusty moonscape of southwestern Afghanistan that comes with all the tools to wage a modern war. A vast operations center with tiered seating. A briefing theater. Spacious offices. Fancy chairs. Powerful air conditioning. Everything, that is, except troops. The windowless, two-story structure, which is larger than a football field, was completed this year at a cost of $34 million. But the military has no plans to ever use it.”
If Conservatives want to support a strong national defense, they need to demand that the Pentagon stop acting like a giant Santa Clause of corporate welfare for military contractors. We are headed for a debt crisis that will be a real national security threat. That means that the Pentagon is directly endangering our nation by this reckless spending.